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Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order


MADISON (WKOW) -- A Madison private school has raised over $70,000 to bring a lawsuit challenging a Dane County health order that educational institutions begin the school year teaching most of their students virtually.

An online crowdfunding initiative launched by St. Ambrose Academy has raised $72,281 as of this writing for the express purpose of taking Public Health Madison & Dane County to court.

"A group of plaintiffs including parents and St. Ambrose Academy are taking legal action to contest Public Health Madison & Dane County Emergency Order #9," the online fundraiser's description reads.

Public health issued Emergency Order #9 Friday night. Included in the order was a requirement that Dane County schools educate all students in grades three through 12 virtually. The measure is designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Students in kindergarten, first and second grade can receive in-person instruction provided certain safety measures are in place.

The fundraiser tapped into widespread opposition to the order, surpassing its $60,000 goal in 19 hours. Five-hundred-sixty-eight individual donations have comprised the fundraiser so far, bringing it within 91 percent of its new $80,000 goal.

The description on the crowdfunding webpage says that the Dane County public health department "has dealt county religious schools a crushing blow by holding them to far higher standards than other businesses."

Money not used in the impending lawsuit will go toward tuition assistance for students and be administered by the academy.

St. Ambrose promoted the fundraiser on its Facebook page Saturday, writing, "Please join us in ensuring that our children can return to school for in-person instruction this fall. To challenge the recent emergency order closing Dane County's schools, St. Ambrose Academy is assembling a coalition of schools, benefactors, and families to share the cost of possible litigation associated with this legal challenge."

The school said it is one of many that has spent "countless hours and many thousands of dollars putting into place the safety precautions mandated" by public health.

The Diocese of Madison, which oversees fourteen Catholic schools in Dane County (but is not affiliated with St. Ambrose Academy), released a letter Saturday urging disgruntled parents to contact Dane County leaders.

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JT Cestkowski

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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